Author Topic: Your stories of career change  (Read 4398 times)


  • Handlebar Stache
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Your stories of career change
« on: April 07, 2015, 07:34:23 PM »
Looking for a little inspiration.  Thinking of a change of career field.  It's just a teeeeeeeny weeeeeeny baaaaaaby idea right now.

When I am first thinking about something like this I like to gather stories.  It's actually more helpful than posting my whole situation and asking for advice, because that leads me and others into very established paths or ideas, and a plethora of stories expose me (and all of us) to ideas or approaches I never would have considered.

So!  On to the good stuff!

Have you ever changed careers/callings, and how did it go down?  What would be important for someone to know about your experience?  I'm leavin' it vague here, people, so we can draw the lessons from all the amazing stories out there.

Thank you!


  • Bristles
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Re: Your stories of career change
« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2015, 08:15:53 PM »
I'm posting mainly to follow because I'm considering my own change of careers.  But here's a small story from my past:

In college I thought I wanted to be a physical therapist.  The year after college I worked at a PT clinic as an aide, and...  it was not a great fit.  I learned a lot about how to make small talk (a big step for me), but it was not something I wanted to do for a long time.  I would be the PT that made patients cry.  To gain some time before deciding what to do, I went to grad school for physics.  I paid for grad school as a TA and found out I liked teaching physics.  After getting my master's I've spent the next 6 years teaching physics. 

I like it, it was fun, but I'm ready for a change.  Plus, the pay is not great.  :)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Your stories of career change
« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2015, 07:28:12 AM »
I went to a school where most people end up becoming pilots.  At school I flew and started the first portion of training.  Met my current wife at the airfield.  Flying meant a 10 year commitment and would have made it tough to live at the same location over those 10+ years.  We both decided flying wasn't going to work.  I went into medical administration.

I knew after 3 months on the job that I wasn't going to enjoy it.  I felt like so much of what I saw was broken and made no sense.  To make matters worse I put in tons of hours and didn't really see a result.  I moved papers along but never really saw the result, other than the fact that the papers stopped people from calling me.

I decided I couldn't do a career as a medical administrator and saw dentists had regular hours, were paid well and their work was instantly visible.  I was an engineering major in school so needed to complete some of the pre-reqs for dental school (O-chem, micro, biochem).  Luckily I was living in the DC area and U MD has a night program with those classes.  So I would go to work at 5am leave at 5pm-ish get to class by 6pm and finish at 10pm if there were labs and get home by 11pm and do it all over again.  It sucked.

When I made the decision to go to dental school and my admin bosses found out it definitely changed the work dynamic.  I was treated differently and lost out on certain opportunities (understandably, why would they invest in me when I wasn't going to be around), that being said I was lucky they were supportive of my desire to change.  I also worked with quite a few physicians and all of them tried to convince me to become a physician and were very supportive of the desire to change.

Basically once I decided to make the career change it sucked more than before.  It's definitely been worth it though and I'm really happy in the new job.


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Your stories of career change
« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2015, 08:26:05 AM »
It's technically my husband's career change, and some might not count it as he is in the same field.  But, for us, it was a major change and he had to work for it.

He was the IT guy at a small business.  Basically the only IT guy so he did lots - messed with the phones, fixed the computers when someone inevitably loaded a virus onto it, helped with business cell phone set up, all of that sort of stuff.

He came home after a review where the president of the company said that while he's good at solving problems, that's not what he wants out of him.  He wanted him to be more of a creative, make our next new product, type of guy.

My husband is creative about things he enjoys.  He was not going to be able to be creative in that job.  He looked deflated - I told him to go look for another job (and he wisely obeyed! LOL)

He wanted to specialize.  So he looked for DBA jobs.  Interviewed for a Jr. position and realized he was not cut out for it - he just didn't know enough and comically bombed the interview.

He took the first generic IT job he could get just to get out of his other job.  Commute was a bitch, but he only did it for 10 months.  During those ten months he studied very hard, got some certs from Microsoft, and then went job searching - found a DBA position in 3 weeks.  Didn't bomb that interview! LOL.

He was technically a Jr. DBA there but was promoted to Sr. after a year. 

Was it a total career change?  No - but there was a decent amount of studying involved to switch over and the move was very beneficial for us financially. 

Sorry if that's not exactly what you are looking for - now when I switch over from being a former admin assistant ---SAHM---and become a teacher, I'll have my own story to share!


  • Walrus Stache
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Re: Your stories of career change
« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2015, 08:38:20 AM »
I've moved through 3 different careers so far. X, Y and Z since we are being generic. X and Y were related and Z was completely different.

I spent 10yrs doing X. I went from X back to grad school and fell into Y without trying. After 17yrs of Y that company wound down and I was living on an island without any more prospects of similar work and no desire to leave.

So I did an inventory of my skills and experience vs. local opportunities. Got a short term [4 month contract] in a new industry which allowed me to make some fresh contacts. At the end of the 4 months I walked into one of the contact's office and pitched the idea of them hiring me under contract to consult for them. I offered a lower rate than I typically would want to account for my lack of industry specific experience, but highlighted what I thought was common between careers X, Y & Z.

Got the contract for 1 yr in 2014. Signed a new contract for 2015 with a decent rate increase. And I expect that to continue until I FIRE.

-- Vik


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Your stories of career change
« Reply #5 on: April 08, 2015, 08:49:01 AM »
I don't post very often but I thought compelled to add to this one. Sorry for the length.

I graduated with a masters in chemical engineering (5 year program) and took a job with a very large pharmaceutical company after college. The beuracracy was overwhelming. I remember two months in, after I had finally finished all the SOPs and started actually performing my job i had an existential crisis in my cubicle. One of those where I was just asking myself "is this what I will be doing with the rest of my life? Is this what I spent 5 years in college working for, a job I hate with more red tape than I can stand?" Needless to say it was a pretty low point. Luckily my opening position allowed me to rotate through a few different areas so I always had hope of going to a better department / plant. About a year into my job I took my first major vacation visiting a college friend who was in the peace corps. She introduced me to MMM and my life started evolving.

Once I got back, I started supercharging my finances and looking at what marketable skills I could extract from my positions. I had the opportunity to move to NC and work in operations so I took it 1) for the low cost of living 2) it was the fastest way to get management experience. In the beginning, I enjoyed operations especially working with the blue collar guys in a non-union plant (previous plants were all union). However after a while our bonuses and pay started getting frozen and the path i was going to take into an 'official management position' was eliminated by 're-orginization' and downsizing so I again felt the bureaucracy and bullshit walls closing in.

I knew I always wanted to get into real estate investing and development. I had been interested in investing and day traded through college for some extra cash but I knew it wasn't for me. I researched as much as I could on Real Estate and I started reaching out to my college friends and my network. As it happens my good friend in college had the year earlier left his job at GS to help run his family real estate business in Seattle. They were planning on doing a lot of remodeling but he had broken his back in a ski accident so he wouldn't be able to do much lifting. I expressed my dissatisfaction at my current job and he offered me a place on one of his work crews and his Dad would give me a crash course in apartment investing.

I took stock of my current situation. I'd been pretty frugal but after finding MMM, my savings boosted to crazy levels and I had enough to easily cover expenses for a few years and a good amount to potentially invest. I also knew I was unsatisfied at my engineering job and I didn't want my boss's position. After a lot of thought and realizing that engineering wasn't for me I made the leap. I knew Seattle would be a transition step but I didn't know where I would end up. I spent 7 months in Seattle remoddelling apartments and learning a lot about managing and buying apartments. I also reached out to everyone I could for advice and informational interviews so I could start making my next move.

Shortly after Seattle, I came back home for some time with the family and then started targeting REIT analyst positions. I chose REITs because I wanted to get more practice analyzing and developing properties. I worked my network again and through a family friend landed an interview with a few REITs. Eventually, I got an analyst position in a small Industrial REIT 5 miles from where I currently live with a salary comparable to what I was getting payed as an engineer in NC.

So that is my story, it was a long and winding road but eventually it all worked out. I know not everyone will be able to do it like me. I have no kids or wife, my family was very supportive of my transition, my jobs payed pretty high salaries throughout my career (except Seattle), and my network really helped me. It was still tough and there was a lot of uncertainty in there, honestly though I can't describe what a relief it was to quit that engineering job. Even though I was not sure where I was going to end up, I felt a weight lift as soon as I walked out of that plant in NC. I remember before I was about to take the leap I was reading a lot and I found a quote from Tim Ferris on Zen Pencils: which really helped inspire me to just do it.

The only thing I would have done different is kept my job for a little longer and taken some of those informational interviews while I was still on the payroll instead of getting payed peanuts in Seattle. However I do not regret leaving my position for a second. I start my new position on Monday with the REIT and honestly couldn't be more excited.

MMM may be all about retiring early, but the biggest thing for me has been the confidence in knowing I could survive for years financially while I pursued the career I really wanted. I am pretty young, so early retirement may still be in the picture but I really want to try my hand at development in a few years.

Hope my story helps and best of luck.


  • Walrus Stache
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Re: Your stories of career change
« Reply #6 on: April 08, 2015, 08:52:57 AM »
I went from law enforcement into IT (long story short, I moved cross-country because I despise New England weather and police departments weren't hiring in the Phoenix area).  I had a friend from another message forum and he was able to get me hired as an intern for a small IT company. I busted my ass and learned as much as I could and knocked out four promotions in less than two years. Right place, right time - it worked out for me! :)

I do miss my previous career, but now that I have a better schedule, a job where my SO doesn't have to worry about me every night, a better paycheck, and far more lucrative income prospects down the road, I have no regrets.


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: Your stories of career change
« Reply #7 on: April 08, 2015, 09:19:39 AM »
I graduated with a BS business.  I found a job in a software company doing general marketing-type duties. For a few years I sold software, but didn't really like it.  I focused more on product marketing and product management.   I advanced due to my ability to fit in and work hard and provide great output.  But I really had no definable skill-set, so job-hopping didn't work all that well.  In fact, it was the opposite.  I'd take a new job at lower pay and impress people and wait for promotions and raises.  I thought that would be my future and it meant being more dependent on my bosses because I couldn't prove my value and work ethic on a resume. 

When I moved to the WDC area, I took a job that was decent pay, but 32K lower than my previous position and the COL was much higher here. But there were few people interested in my "jack of all trades, master of none" background, so I focused on building my skills, especially around the aspects of previous jobs that I enjoyed.  I learned MS Project and Excel really well and focused on the project mgmt skills, which are in high demand in this area.  I did a ton of self-training, got certifications with a couple of organizations, volunteered with industry organizations, and networked.  Although many people thought at the time that I did a complete 180 in terms of jobs, I wove a common thread through my history and now it looks as if I was on a single track for my entire career.  With that first new job in the area, I built a new skill-set and looked for applications of it that were in demand.   And I found a niche that few people enjoy but that I thought was somewhat interesting and I could leverage past experience.  Then I took a different job at double the pay, due mostly to one of the certifications I had picked up.  Then I was persuaded by another company to do the same thing at higher pay.  Then the same thing happened again.  Finally, a company decided to pay me directly and cut out the middleman and that's when things really took off for me. 

So for me, once I changed from a generalist to a specialist and became skilled in my chosen specialization, things really improved financially.